The Mariners Approach a Floor

If you’re here, you probably know that, within the Mariners organization, all the shit has hit all of the ceiling fans. The desk fans too. If a floor were to exist, and it happened to have fans, it would have hit those too. Every boardroom, every workstation, every locker is covered in feces today, this week, and for a while. Whether or not people — more people — lose their jobs as a result is just something we’ll have to watch play out.

The messy firing of Dr. Lorena Martin has brought the Seattle baseball franchise to a crossroads they never wanted. That’s life. Sometimes it takes you, the sports team, and you, the fan, to a destination you’d rather avoid. Sometimes life takes married couples, friends, siblings, or single individuals to a place of reckoning, with mixed results. This time it brought sports fans into a clusterfuck that might blow over, might reach a delicate resolution, might reach no resolution at all, or might even claim the jobs of the men who lead the organization.

Life is about to reckon with the Seattle Mariners. There will be losers. There may be no winners. (Much like the franchise’s last 17 playoff-less seasons. Which isn’t a cheap shot, but rather context that’s fair to add.)

Dr. Martin alleges that she was fired without cause, and claims gender discrimination, among other things. She alleges that decision-makers at the highest levels are, in fact, prejudiced toward Latin players, specifically Dominicans.

In this excellent story penned by T.J. Cotterill in the Tacoma News Tribune, the details Martin relays are damning if true:

“Martin posted complaints about Dipoto, Servais and McKay to Instagram and Twitter on Monday. Later that night she told me in a phone interview that Dipoto in a January meeting with Martin and McKay in his suite at Safeco Field called her a “cocky Latina” and later McKay called Dominican players lazy and stupid and said the same about Martin.

She said that a few months later at the Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona, that Servais commented that you don’t see Latino catchers or managers because “they aren’t bright enough. They are dumb.” And he didn’t allow her in some clubhouse meetings with players during spring training, telling her it was because she is a woman.”

At this intersection of allegations and doubt, fans will have to decide whether they believe Martin (full confession: it me), or the team, or a little of both, or neither at the moment, while details sort themselves out. Reserving judgment is a strong move. That could be me too. Look, I am not here to dispense condemnation on anyone who wants to take the team’s side, or wait a while. Sports fandom is intensely emotional, and attachments made over a person’s entire life, or “only” the last 41 years, are not easily dissolved, nor should they be. Otherwise, what does it even mean to be a fan, if you can’t stick out the hard times?

But I have a strong opinion, and it centers on believing those with less power who allege malfeasance by those with more power. Whistleblowers, sexual harassment plaintiffs, slighted women in the workplace, and accusers citing discrimination are all people who project believability. As a reflex, I trust them until they’re provably discredited.

Which leads me, for now, to the unsavory conclusion that the Mariners need to clean house, from the top down. Not out of hate. But out of love. If something you care for — and I cherish the M’s, like you probably do too, if you’ve gotten this far — is infested, action is necessary. Either clean out the disease or watch your loved one die. With suffering along the way. For all involved. It’s a terrible choice, and it’s fine to bemoan that life brought us here, but if you love something there is no choice but to try everything to cure it of a pernicious disease.

Along the way too: there’s an awful lot of silent coping with an uncertainty that yells internal objections at you from a mental distance. “What if there is no disease! What if Dr. Martin’s lying?” “Isn’t it possible certain people misheard certain things?” “You can’t run a business in a field that employs thousands of accomplished Latino men, and *really, truly* think they’re lazy… can you?” “Imagine the human cost of treating an imaginary cancer with aggressive chemo.”

All of the above are perfectly good objections to the conclusion that Martin forces us to consider: that Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais and Andy McKay are bad people with bad ideas, unfit to lead a baseball team, or any organization in a pluralistic society, really.

But with a few days’ worth of distance from the first allegation, I continue to rest on an uncomfortable truth: the only way to make the Mariners front office look decent here is to call Martin a liar; a bitter ex of sorts. It’s no wonder many people all across the various forms of social mediae have spent their first reactions ambling toward that exculpatory street. It’s a comforting place, that thoroughfare, where one can continue business as usual without having to reconsider how functional and valuable the relationship is between one and the team.

We have to already reconsider so many real relationships as it is. Sports shouldn’t be a place where those too-real interpersonal issues creep in. But sometimes it just can’t be helped. This is one of those times.

And it fucking sucks, for everyone. For the players, the fans, the city, my friend in the marketing department who didn’t ask for any of this, for Dr. Martin, and for you. It plain fucking sucks, and there’s no way around it.

If her allegations are even half true, there’s no way I can continue to support the front office of the Seattle Mariners. And certainly no way to rationalize giving them any money. Not with the people they have in place right now. I suspect I’m not alone.

The Mariners are trapped in a clusterfuck (a word I’ll unapologetically re-use because it’s the best one our language has to offer), one that looks to be of their own making. Although it should be said — again! —  that there are many views possible here. Two friends weighed in over the week with very incisive commentary.

“Like always, we’ll never know the true story, unless there are tapes of it happening, or others come corroborate the accusations. So we have to make a choice, do we believe this incredible trainer who’s trusted by an entire industry? Or do we think this is someone who’s angry about the way they were let go? I’d say it’s completely naive to assume the latter, and just straight up dangerous to dismiss her accusations.”

and

“Seems pretty apparent that the only way for the Mariners organization to get right again is that the Board needs to convene and agree to just absolutely clean house from the President on down. Absolutely rotten in likely many ways.”

Rotten is the aptest of terms. Because even if the team is cleared completely in this matter, a result that seems unlikely, there will always remain a soupcon of suspicion that in the Kingdom of SoDo, something continues to rot. The damage is done, whether the damage is real or invented. Perception is reality, they say. This has never been truer than today.

To bring everything back to a personal level, with the MLB offices now involved in investigating Martin’s story, it’s suddenly hard(er) to be a Mariners fan. Every week, the pull of a fandom centered on players, not franchises, intensifies. Some weeks, the pull turns into a hug. Good luck and godspeed, Nelson Cruz, wherever you land for the 2019 season. We’ll wish you well. The rest of us will be over here, either cringing, puffing sighs of relief, or doing both. Hopefully both? That’s the best result one can reasonably hope for.

And what sad commentary that is on the present state of the Seattle Mariners.

2 thoughts on “The Mariners Approach a Floor

  1. I would quibble with the “So we have to make a choice, do we believe this incredible trainer who’s trusted by an entire industry?” sentiment. She’s reportedly been difficult to work with at other stops and is far from being trusted by an entire industry.

    However, I do think her side of the story is more believable than the FO’s at this point.

  2. There are no good outcomes, short term or long. I do not in any way like or approve of the way the organization has handled this or Dr Martin. I also have no way of knowing which side is right and which side is wrong. Regardless, the damage is done for the entire fan base and likely for major league baseball as a whole. Short of Dr Martin fully recanting her allegations (which I sincerely doubt will happen), there’s no magic evidence likely to surface to prove those allegations and so we’re all left with the choice to either take sides or just sit this out. I’m sitting it out.

    Kills me to see the Mariners fan base (and Seattle sports fans in general) suffer this newest trauma because it will be with us long after this front office and this particular team of athletes has been replaced. But we already knew a rebuild was in the works, so like a diseased forest the only real answer is to cleanse it with fire and renew it from the ground up.

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